Samsung Boss Jay Lee Faces Trial Over Bribery Accusations

Jay Y Lee could spend more than 20 years in jail if convicted on all charges,

The third-generation leader of South Korea's top conglomerate was mostly silent at his first court appearance in what has been called the "trial of the century," as his lawyers laboured to portray him as an innocent bystander in a graft scandal.

Jay Y Lee, the 48-year-old boss of Samsung Group, is on trial on charges including bribery and embezzlement in a scandal that led to the ouster of President Park Geun-hye.

He could spend more than 20 years in jail if convicted on all charges, including one where he pledged 43 billion won in bribes to foundations backed by Park and her confidant, Choi Soon-sil.

Choi, a former Samsung Group vice chairman considered a mentor to Jay Y Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, left the conglomerate on 1 March, after it dismantled its corporate strategy office – a nerve centre long considered an instrument for the founding Lee family's management of the companies.

The leader of the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire is the only founding family member among the country's most powerful conglomerates, called chaebol, to be indicted in a graft scandal that led to Park becoming South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be removed from office.

Park herself was arrested last week on charges such as colluding with Choi to pressure businesses such as Samsung to contribute to foundations that backed her administration's policy initiatives.

The defence team said Lee, and other former and current Samsung executives, felt threatened in their interactions with Choi Soon-sil as Samsung provided financial support.

Prosecution evidence showed that President Park rebuked Jay Y Lee during a July 2015 meeting over inadequate support for the equestrian community.

Beyond confirming personal details such as his name and occupation, Lee remained silent when the judge asked if he had anything to say in response to the charges he faces.

Lee's lawyers said the Samsung boss made financial payments in response to requests by then-President Park and sought no favours in return.